The Mountains of Romania

Calin and I tooled around in his brother's
Dacia on our honeymoon in Romania,
but it didn't take long to see everything
in his parents' neck of the woods.
We had no hotel reserved for our honeymoon.

Because his parents in Romania didn't attend our stateside wedding, Calin and I visited them afterward. Codlea, Transylvania, isn't exactly a tourist mecca, unless you count Dracula's castle about an hour away and the towering Bucegi mountains we traversed between the airport and Calin's boyhood home. But, poking around the family attic stands in for sight-seeing, when you're desperate enough--especially for someone in my line of work.
Cutsi's Stassfurt TV is like this,

In the front closet we discovered a derelict East German Stassfurt TV. People in less prosperous countries repair everything. Somehow, though, the Stassfurt never got fixed, defied resuscitation, or simply seemed too outdated to bother with (even my mother-in-law, Cutsi, wanted color television, eventually).

Cutsi has difficulty parting with unused items. Since Romania has no thrift stores, and a garage sale would elicit strange looks from neighbors unfamiliar with the concept, decluttering means giving to people you know, or to Gypsies passing in horse-drawn carts.
Decluttering, Gypsy-style. courtesy:

In a society devoid of thrift stores and garage sales, a household's detritus should overwhelm. Wouldn't someone who won't toss anything even marginally useful--and who doesn't have a charity store to dump on--be awash in stuff? Yet, with the surplus interspersed throughout the home's pair of closets and attic, it didn't appear remotely excessive, despite being a whole life's worth of cast-offs.

Cutsi fixes. She gardens. She raises poultry. She uses everything when she cooks, even the turkey feet. She doesn't shop much. She doesn't concern herself with fashion. She gets everywhere on foot. When asked what she'd like us to bring her from the States, she requests a garden hose, and dental floss. When she receives gifts, believing them too good to use, she passes them along to friend or neighbor.

Cutsi's nearly empty walk-up attic.
One could argue Cutsi's frugality a necessity, but I disagree. After the fall of Communism, she didn't go on a buying spree, procuring the wonders newly available through capitalism; instead, she socked away retirement checks, sharing with those who desired to further their education, start a modest business, or see to needs in a country thin on social safety nets. And every time we visit, she presses money into our hands; despite our protests, she wants to share the cost of our son's autism therapy. Cutsi's a saver; Cutsi's a giver.

Cutsi tends her tomato seedlings.
In wealthier countries--the presence of thrift stores is a symptom of excess, after all--we jettison possessions little by little, hardly realizing how much we've discarded. The thoughtful donate, the shamelessly wasteful take the landfill shortcut. Either way, we squander by purchasing goods we don't appreciate enough to keep, or to repair, or to use when they're no longer the latest and greatest. And we choose inferior-quality goods unworthy of the resources used to produce them. Imagine your whole life's cast-offs in one heap. I feel ashamed by my personal Everest.

Mount Magura, from Cutsi's back yard.
Atop Cutsi's imaginary pile--modest, like Mount Magura outside her back window, indeed hardly worthy of the "Mount" moniker at all--sits the Stassfurt TV. Even she didn't appreciate it enough to fix.

We brought our wedding clothes to
Romania so Calin's parents could see.
Cutsi has one major life regret: missing her son's wedding. The cost of tickets would've been dear, the trip grueling, the plane changes confusing for a pair of pensioners accustomed to the confines of sleepy Codlea, Romania. Now, all she can do is watch the wedding video, on her color television. Even if she were to fix it, the Stassfurt lacks a VCR hookup.

Some waste is inevitable--even frugal, resourceful Cutsi can't find a use, or a home, for everything. But the biggest waste of all is a life selfishly lived. On this count, Cutsi has no regrets. Imagine your life's acts of giving all on one pile. 

Would it equal Cutsi's Everest?

Matthew 6:19-21

Next: A vintage engineering certificate found at a thrift store leads me on a Google search, and to tears: Treasures on Earth, Treasures in Heaven

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  1. What a great, thought-provoking story! I agree, most of us have too much stuff and I'm sure that's why waste seems so easy. I have my Etsy shop in order to try to downsize our pile of vintage goods, both collected and inherited. I don't even have to go out looking for things to sell -- have an attic full!

    Cutsi sounds like a very interesting woman.

  2. Hi. I don't know how I found your blog but I wanted to tell you I love it! I went back and read all your posts and my only complaint is there isn't more!
    We have lost our way financially and the post about comfort finally made me understand why. Great, great blog.

    mama to 8



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